Guy Bourdin: Image Maker at Somerset House
The dramatic arches of Embankment Gallery at Somerset House are the ideal backdrop for a rare glimpse at the iconic work of French photographic genius Guy Bourdin. Featuring over 100 pieces – previously unseen film, sketches and notes – fashion and photography lovers have been flocking to this unique exhibition for months.
Highlights from the display include his infamous Walking Legs series for the legendary Parisian shoemaker Charles Jourdan. Travelling around the UK in 1979 with several pairs of mannequin legs, his partner, their son and an assistant, Bourdin created an astounding collection of pictures charting the unorthodox character journey of the legs wearing various Jourdan designs at iconic British landmarks.
Taking the basic concept of what a fashion photograph is – a medium to sell – Bourdin moved away from convention, shifting focus from simply the product itself to the image as a whole. From one photograph to the next, one’s eye is not merely drawn to a pair of shoes, a lipstick or piece of clothing, but to the entire setting. Sometimes shocking, provocative even, each image charts the rise of Bourdin to master of the enduring fashion shoot.
Striking throughout is Bourdin’s eye for context. Models are pictured in staged settings rather than just simple backgrounds. In a New York hotel he commissioned a giant shoe to use as a prop. His notes and sketches allow wonderful insight into his creative thinking and visualisations for each shoot. We are continually reminded of how he pushed the boundaries of convention, with each photo more daring than the last.
In a pre-digital age, Bourdin achieved extraordinary heights and influenced a new era in fashion photography. This is an absorbing exhibition and a fascinating look at the work of a true maestro. Commanding the gaze of the visitor and remaining in the conscious long after departing, Bourdin’s images are captivating with a lasting impression – no doubt what he always wanted.
Guy Bourdin: Image Maker is at Somerset House until 15th March 2015, for further information visit here.